Immediately after final exams, a group of 22 upper school boys and four faculty and staff members departed for Puerto Rico to provide service to small communities still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Through an international service organization called Walking Tree Travel, the group worked with two organizations: CAMBU (Centro de Apoyo Mutuo Bucarabones Unidos) in Bucarabones and Plenitud, a small farm located deep in Puerto Rico’s western interior. Every step of the way, the group worked alongside the local community performing a variety of chores, such as painting rooms, pulling weeds, mulching gardens and installing receptacles to capture rain water so that it can be reused.
During the time with CAMBU, the group helped to convert an old school building into a community center. At Plenitud, the group focused on agricultural jobs and terrace farming. Despite working hard in the sometimes blistering heat, the students were determined not to let the conditions slow them down. “I tried to put my best foot forward and work hard because I wanted to help these people rebuild their school,” said rising Junior Jack Erwin, “If I didn’t go to school, I would have never met any of my current friends and teachers. I would have never been able to go on a trip like this.”
Like Jack, many of the boys came away from the trip with a new sense of gratitude and perspective. “I have realized how much I appreciate my parents for letting me go on this trip because it has been life changing for me,” said rising Junior Gerald Watson, “When you have a family and community, you can work together to help fix any problems caused by a bad event.”
Between work assignments, the boys found some time for leisure. They played basketball on the community court and swam in a stream with a rustic waterfall. Some of the boys learned salsa dancing from the local community members. Many particularly enjoyed the food, which consisted mainly of rice, beans, tostones (fried plantains) and, of course, lots of tropical fruit. Throughout the week, some students recorded their experiences, reflections and takeaways on a blog
. "The positive dynamic that was instilled through this entire trip created such a comfortable and homey atmosphere,” wrote rising junior Darius Kulchyckyj, “I am extremely grateful to have been a part of something so beautiful.”
History teacher Mac McDonald, who led the trip along with Mr. Bailey, Ms. McGeehan and Ms. McDonald, was pleased with the boys’ positive attitude and their commitment to the tasks at hand.
“From disparate friend groups, our 22 guys coalesced through this shared experience and worked hard to help local communities develop in ways that will ensure they are more self-sufficient and better able to withstand adversity in the future,” said Mr. McDonald, “The most important thing we did, however, was connect with people from these communities despite not sharing a language. Instead, our boys were able to communicate through painting, construction, gardening, basketball, dancing, and through their compassion and desire to help.”